French language proficiency will lead category-based selection Express Entry draws in 2024

Edana Robitaille
Published: April 26, 2024

French language proficiency will dominate category-based selection Express Entry draws in 2024 according to a recent Access to Information Request (ATIP).

The ATIP, shared with CICNews by Carry Immigration, shows that throughout draws in 2024, Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) will issue 78.5% of all Invitations to Apply (ITAs) to Express Entry candidates in category-based selection draws. The remaining 21.5% of ITAs will be issued in general draws.

Candidates eligible for selection through the French proficiency category will receive 30% of these with STEM occupations making up the next highest at 25% and healthcare at 15%.

The percentages of ITAs by category break down as follows:

Round typeCategory Target
French proficiency30%
Healthcare occupations15%
STEM occupations25%
Trade occupations5%
Transport occupations3%
Agriculture and agri-food occupations0.5%

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Category-based selection draws were introduced in May 2023 as a means for IRCC to target the Express Entry candidates with in-demand attributes such as work experience and language abilities.

Why is French proficiency leading?

In another ATIP from April 2023, obtained by CICNews, French proficiency was singled out as particularly important because according to a 2021 Labour Market Information Council report, employers in Canada were having trouble finding qualified skilled workers to fill vacant positions requiring bilingualism. Further, it found that French-speaking economic principal applicants had higher incidences of employment.

This data was supported by a Statistics Canada study released in January that found language ability is the biggest deciding factor in an economic immigration candidate’s overall success in the Canadian labour force.

IRCC also says this has an impact on public services in Canada because all Canadians have the right to access these services in either official language (French or English).

According to the 2023 ATIP, when the category was first proposed IRCC noted that between anywhere from 11% to 15% of candidates invited through category-based selection would be from this category. However, to date, French proficiency draws have invited the highest number of candidates of any category (17,300 ITAs since July 2023).

The department also noted that inviting a high percentage of French-speaking candidates would help ensure that IRCC meets its mandated target of 4.4% of all francophone newcomers settling outside of Quebec in 2023.

The department was successful in this. Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced in January this year that 4.7% of all newcomers outside of Quebec. He said the target for 2024 would rise to 6%.

The same ATIP noted that support for this category was mixed. While 54% of stakeholders supported the category 42% indicated that they felt the category would have no impact or were unsure of the impact. Support was at its lowest levels from stakeholders in Alberta and British Columbia. They felt that there would be no significant economic impact outside of Francophone minority communities.

Other respondents in support of the category said there is a need for bilingualism in healthcare, tourism, hospitality, and education. They also pointed out the non-economic benefits that would come from the category such as removing barriers for French-speaking minorities to access services in their first language.

When will draws occur and how big will they be?

According to the 2024 ATIP, IRCC has developed a schedule for Express Entry draws in 2024. However, most details have been redacted. It says that draws will occur in a way that will “provide predictability to provinces and territories and clients with a consistent schedule.”

This is the first indication that draws will be held on a schedule this year. Draw frequency throughout 2023 was difficult to predict following the introduction of category-based selection.

Thus far in 2024, IRCC has conducted one general draw and at least one category-based draw every two weeks, although there have been occasions with three draws in one week. There is no way to confirm if this pattern will continue throughout the rest of the year.

In terms of how large the draws will be, IRCC says it will invite candidates based on admissions targets outlined in the current (2024-2026) Immigration Levels Plan. In 2024, IRCC has a target of welcoming 110,770 new permanent residents in 2024 and 117,500 in 2025. The number of candidates invited each year will not be the same as the target because Express Entry applications have a processing standard of six months. This means that candidates invited in the latter half of this year will not land in Canada until 2025.

Impact on CRS scores

The 2024 ATIP also says, “Anticipated round sizes at this frequency [of draws] should be feasible based on current expectations for pool vitality, although Comprehensive Ranking System (CRS) score and composition of the pool may deviate from expectations depending on PT (Provincial and Territorial) behaviour and pool replenishment.”

Put another way, this means the number of candidates in the Express Entry application pool, and their CRS scores, will have an impact on the minimum CRS cut-off scores for upcoming draws.

In the 2023 ATIP, IRCC said it expected to see a drop of approximately 10% in the total average CRS score following the introduction of category-based selection rounds. It anticipated that this drop would likely help widen source country and occupational diversity but also noted that there could be a negative impact on newcomer’s economic outcomes since higher CRS are correlated with stronger economic outcomes.

Express Entry draws in recent months have seen higher minimum scores for general draws, with none lower than 524. Meanwhile, some category-based selection draws have required much lower scores, such as 336 for a French-language proficiency draw on February 29.

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